SCHOOLS should avoid holding fancy dress events, such as World Book Day, to reduce the impact of the cost-of-living crisis, according to council chiefs.
The annual celebration of reading and children’s literature, held every March, has become a fixture of school calendars with a day set aside for primary school pupils to come to class dressed as a character from their favourite book.
Other similar events include Christmas jumper days and themed charity fundraising days such as where pupils are encouraged to wear a football kit to school.
But councillors in Monmouthshire were told such events are frowned upon by the council’s education department.
The council’s chief officer for children and young people, Will McLean, told councillors it has been working with the Gwent Education Achievement Service (EAS), and other bodies, to “make sure” schools understand the challenges the cost-of-living crisis is causing parents and pupils.
“Some of those can be very easy steps forward,” said Mr McLean: “Not expecting everybody to come to school in fancy dress on World Book, not expecting people to wear their football kits on certain days, actually just being really flexible.
“Odd sock days are a great way of involving everyone having fun but it doesn’t cost those additional things and we’ve seen in the past, research done by officers in the authority, that parents have to make really difficult decisions about what they forego to enable their children to go to school and participate.
“It’s a continuing challenge for us but we’ve been working closely with EAS on their tackling aspects of poverty scheme to make sure we address that and we’ve worked really hard with our schools to make sure they understand those pressures in the classroom.”
As part of its efforts to address poverty every school in Monmouthshire has to identity a senior leader and governor responsible for tackling poverty and raising the achievement of vulnerable learners while tackling poverty must also be included in a school’s development plan and it must have a programme to do so.
The county council is also making funding available to support breakfast clubs in secondary schools and providing a hardship fund for families struggling to meet costs of food, clothing and other essentials.
The council says its plan for community focused schools mean they can look for grants for schemes such as family cooking lessons and can also help with the cost-of-living crisis through initiatives such as uniform swaps which can also be linked to environmental benefits to overcome any stigma around accepting help when in financial hardship.